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Community Politics and the Peace Process in Contemporary Northern Irish Drama

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Eva Urban

This book examines theatre within the context of the Northern Ireland conflict and peace process, with reference to a wide variety of plays, theatre productions and community engagements within and across communities. The author clarifies both the nature of the social and political vision of a number of major contemporary Northern Irish dramatists and the manner in which this vision is embodied in text and in performance. The book identifies and celebrates a tradition of playwrights and drama practitioners who, to this day, challenge and question all Northern Irish ideologies and propose alternative paths. The author’s analysis of a selection of Northern Irish plays, written and produced over the course of the last thirty years or so, illustrates the great variety of approaches to ideology in Northern Irish drama, while revealing a common approach to staging the conflict and the peace process, with a distinct emphasis on utopian performatives and the possibility of positive change.

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Introduction 11

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Introduction I see no point in writing a ‘plea’ for unity between prods [Protestants] and taigs [Catholics]. What use has piety been? I can only see a point in actually embodying that unity, practicing that inclusiveness, in an artistic image; creating it as an act of the imagination, postulating it before an audience. Stewart Parker1 In this text, Stewart Parker positions the dramatist in the public arena: the dramatist is ‘engaged’, that is, purposeful within the historic dynamic, but the means of engagement are specific: it is by ‘an act of imagination’ before an audience that visions of alternatives can be postulated, that ideals of possible futures, are embodied. The stage functions as a utopian space, where the political vision of inclusiveness is rehearsed. In her book Utopia in Performance, Jill Dolan argues that ‘live performance provides a place where people come together, embodied and passionate, to share experi- ences of meaning making and imagination that can describe or capture fleeting intimations of a better world’.2 This philosophy of utopia is based on humanist thought, in the sense that it argues for an idea of ‘human- kind’ as a bond of love between people and wider communities created by theatrical performance. The aesthetics of these performances lead to both affective and effective feelings and expressions of hope and love not just for a partner, as the domestic scripts of realism 1 Stewart Parker, quoted by Stephen Rea, ‘Introduction’, pp. ix–xiii in Stewart Parker, Plays: 2: Northern Star, Heavenly Bodies,...

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